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29 comments:

  1. michael, 24. May 2020, 12:34

    Who decided that council staff should spend all this unnecessary time and money? Just strengthen the library, reopen it, and upgrade the facilities down the track when we can afford it. Yes, it might be nice to do all sorts of amazing things to the library but we need it now. Having the library as the community hub of wellington is vital especially post-covid.

     
  2. Tony Jansen, 24. May 2020, 13:36

    I think the elephant in the room is the Council’s plan for the Civic Precinct, which I cannot find anywhere. What exactly is the vision for this vital area and how does the central library fit into it?
    The original concept from the late 80s/early 90s made a lot of sense. Locating all the key civic facilities and services in one area with an open public square and then linking it to the sea was a game changer for Wellington. Other cities tried and failed to replicate what we had done. We were the coolest and most innovative city in New Zealand. Fast track 35 years and we have become the poster city of dysfunctional local government. We cannot seem to get anything right. The public distrust the Council. Voter turnout is low. Attendance at most of the public meetings during the last local government campaign was miniscule. There is general apathy from most Wellingtonians. Those of us who care write on sites like this, make submissions and are generally ignored by our elected officials.
    There is a wider agenda going on here driven by salaried WCC officials. They frame the parameters for the councilors to vote on. Some of our councilors may indeed share our concerns and hopes for the central library, but their views will inevitably be hijacked by a city administration that has its own ideas.
    I thought the central library was just fine as it was. Eclectic just like my city.

     
  3. Gwynneth Jansen, 24. May 2020, 14:11

    ‘Ask a librarian” – remember that invitation?

    Better still let’s ask the librarians who worked in the Central Library about how well the building functioned as a library and as a workspace.

    They can articulate what was great and what issues were there around people flow, signage, information provision, housing of book stock, quiet spaces, discussion/breakout areas and dedicated spaces for children, research, reading and reflection?

     
  4. Peter, 24. May 2020, 14:13

    How about this for an idea? There is space on the top floor of the library that could be repurposed for modest size conventions with video links to expand numbers. Surely the question must be asked in as to whether conventions in the present format, will continue in a post Covid world. Even without paper a library will always continue as a centre for exchange of information within a community.

     
  5. Roger Walker, 24. May 2020, 14:32

    Can the Council please tell us why they have to spend so much money? We understood a simple solution was to increase the seating depth of the hollow core flooring by bolting steel angles to the primary beams. This may not achieve 100 percent NBS but there is no guarantee that a the ‘big one’ will take any notice of that arbitrary rating.
    Let’s be pragmatic for the sake of the getting it operating again ASAP. [via Facebook]

     
  6. Diane Calvert, 24. May 2020, 18:25

    The report is written by officers with recs to Council. Repair or build new are the options. Various pros and cons. [via twitter]

     
  7. Peter Kerr, 24. May 2020, 20:23

    Thanks for the informed comments, Councilor Calvert. Three bland phrases on twitter is what we’ve come to expect as a response from you and your colleagues.

     
  8. Andrew, 24. May 2020, 21:02

    The SS Wellington City Council glides into the sunset, the band plays, the councillors sit at captain Foster’s table sipping martinis and dreaming of glitzy balls at the soon to be opened Convention Centre. Little do they know, however, that an iceberg comprising of the wrath of Wellington ratepayers serenely floats just out of view over the horizon.

     
  9. Alana, 24. May 2020, 22:43

    This is an excellent summary of where things have been, and gone wrong. The CEO should be required by the Council to move on this right away as a priority.
    The Central Library is part of life in Wellington – as a library, information resource but also where kids and adults study in quiet space where many don’t have at home.
    Thanks, Lindsay, for making such a strong case for our library.

     
  10. Al, 25. May 2020, 3:40

    Thank goodness for Lindsay and others for reporting and writing on this topic. And the reader comments and outrage. We don’t want WCC to over complicate and push up the price. Just get on and fix it.

     
  11. Wayne Dyer, 25. May 2020, 7:58

    Honestly, come on council get a handle on it. It’s absolutely not necessary to keep quoting 100% of nbs, there is no point focusing on that number. The library can be fixed and at a fraction of the rediculous $200million figure, just like many other buildings have been. Please get on with it asap and stop procrastinating.

     
  12. Ana, 25. May 2020, 8:47

    The library is an amazing public space. Work needs to start asap. Where is the sequencing plan? Rebuilding is a nonsense. Surely this is a “shovel ready’project given the engineering expertise already engaged. Covid19 will reduce Council income. Choose an option councillors, find the $ or borrow it and ACT please.

     
  13. michael, 25. May 2020, 10:52

    I heard Councillor Young on the news this morning stating she would like to see our library pulled down and a new one built for $140 million instead of spending $200 million on the Athfield library. Apart from the fact it would mean removing 18,000 tonnes of concrete which would have a significant impact on the city’s carbon footprint, what about the demolition costs which no one is mentioning? And what about spending far less than $200m and strengthening the building and opening it as is now. Must say the $200m scare tactics seem to be working and no doubt we will be faced with years and years without a central library.

     
  14. wendy, 25. May 2020, 11:01

    Let us hope no more WCC buildings get closed after today’s shake because that will probably mean more years of delays and more big-ticket projects instead of just getting on and strengthening the buildings. Must be wonderful to have so much public money for all these amazing projects, while the rest of us have to be content with trying to get things back to the way they were, while coping with rising rates and mortgages to pay.

     
  15. PCGM, 25. May 2020, 11:58

    There’s a culture of inaction at the council, and the library is only one example amongst many of how incredibly slowly the gears grind.

    From closure to reopening, the Town Hall strengthening will consume the best part of a decade. The first reports about the urgency of climate change were consulted on by the council in 2010, and the next one – which will say exactly the same things in slightly different words – won’t be finished until 2021, by which time the emissions of the council will be materially worse. Let’s Get Wellington Moving simply hasn’t, nor will it deliver anything anyone cares about for many a long year.

    The library is suffering the same fate, where endless talk has replaced action. Based on the timelines in the report to councillors, there is likely to be at least a five year gap between closure and re-opening – an unconscionable delay. To give that some context, it only took six years for the might of the Western world to be gathered and for Hitler to be defeated. It’s astounding that we can run the entirety of World War II – the invasions, the defeats, the victories, the untold human sacrifice – in about the same time the council will take to repair a single much-loved building. Granted, the armies of WWII didn’t need to navigate the complexities of the Resource Management Act, but by the same token, no-one is carpet-bombing the council officers and their consultants.

    So perhaps Cr Iona Pannett is right to be worried about the sea level rise that she and her council have done so little to address. At the current rate, the whole of Civic Square will be inundated long before the endless rounds of consultation and engineers reports are even finished.

     
  16. Dan Milward, 25. May 2020, 12:47

    Another Earthquake. Library still standing. [via Facebook]

     
  17. Grumpalump, 25. May 2020, 12:57

    Having had a chance to look at the Agenda and Report, I note that about 2 pages relate to the actuality of the risk for the building due to a structural weakness resulting from a construction detail used for the past 40 years. It is clear that Council Officers have an Agenda of their own, as the rest of the report addresses externalities related to the future of library services. OR have Councillors in the past been influencing the direction that they want to see the service go and perhaps [God forbid] have a legacy that they can call their own.
    As someone has correctly identified that Councillors are there to serve the public and ratepayers, perhaps the Council Officers should also be reminded that they are serving the ratepayers and not themselves.
    A previous Mayor has [albeit indirectly] a lot to answer for the subsequent actions of the Council creating monuments that live on.

     
  18. Paul, 25. May 2020, 13:52

    Repair as is and get underway! Where is that an option in the council paper? Otherwise, as there is no money and priorities are already set on spending, leave a wasteland monument for venture tourism, or demolish the building and perhaps put it down in grass!

     
  19. D'Esterre, 25. May 2020, 14:02

    We love the Athfield building: it’s a distinctive feature of the CBD streetscape, and we want it retained, thank you very much, Councillor Young. Enough of such Philistinism! Please do not attempt to claim that the building is past its use-by date. That’s just nonsense. I draw your attention to the multiplicity of ancient libraries overseas which are still in use: the Long Room at Trinity College Dublin, the Bodleian in Oxford, the marvellous library at Melk Abbey in Austria. We have visited these places. Where the Athfield building is concerned, age simply isn’t an issue.

    A family member has been through the engineering report. The strengthening which is needed – including the base isolation – can be done much more economically than the quoted price of $200 million. It won’t be cheap, but it’s nowhere near the above price. And nowhere near the cost of a new build, either.

    I remind the Mayor and all of the Councillors: the ratepayers of Wellington have just been beaten about the ears economically by the severe quarantine. Many people have lost – or will lose – jobs and businesses. Council officers may have grandiose plans for the library, but it by no means follows either that they’re justified, or that we the ratepayers can afford to meet the cost. We do not care what Council officers think. Except insofar as they’re also ratepayers, their opinions are irrelevant. We can’t afford the nice-to-have stuff: just give us back our library, as it was when the wrong-headed decision was made to close it.

    The strengthening could have been done long since; Council must have that work carried out pronto.

     
  20. KatieR, 25. May 2020, 14:44

    This is going to be a repeat of the bus fiasco. A whole lot of empire building, talking and expense, when getting on with the job is apparently far too efficient for some councillors. Might I suggest earthquake strengthening for now, and consider a refurbish much later? Maybe after the Pandemic costs are known?

     
  21. K, 25. May 2020, 16:46

    How many people actually use the library every year? I see the figure “1 million a year” but obviously that is 1 million visits (~2,750 a day) – not 1 million different individuals. It could be 10,000 people twice a week, 20,000 people once a week, or 80,000 once a month. Before we spend ~$150-200 million repairing/rebuilding a library of similar size, it needs to be established how many individuals use the library. It might be appropriate to replace it with a smaller ~$90 million structure if only a fraction of Wellington ratepayers use it. And does that annual visitation include the hundreds who frequent the cafe and toilets and don’t use the library? Does it include people who use the building as a thoroughfare? [The latest figures from the Central Library show that there were 1,240,000 visitors in the 2017/2018 year, an increase of almost 200,000 on the previous year. The papers for this week’s meeting tell councillors that the Central Library “played an important role in social wellbeing and community life.”]

     
  22. Traveller, 25. May 2020, 17:39

    For the same number of daily visitors, you’re proposing to squeeze them into a smaller space? Doesn’t make sense, specially when the council wants to expand the range of activities in the library when it eventually reopens.

     
  23. Northland, 25. May 2020, 20:03

    An excellent article that can only bring feelings of sadness for where Wellington finds itself at the moment. Troubled by earthquakes and poor infrastructure, we look in vain for dynamic, intelligent, agile and financially prudent leadership. Instead, we find only a huge Council gravy train that likes nothing more than proposing the most expensive solution to be delivered in the very longest timeframe.

    – The Town Hall has been closed since 2013.
    – The Central Library has been closed for over a year now, since March 2019. No sign of any opening until 20?? – (your guess).
    – Frank Kitts Park redevelopment has been happening (or not) since 2015.
    – Island Bay Cycleway – a mess since 2015 and still not done.
    – Let’s Get Welly Moving was, and still is, a talking shop that has delivered nothing.

    It has not always been this way. Once, not so long ago, Wellington really was a cool little capital. Now its almost the opposite.

     
  24. Leviathan, 25. May 2020, 21:06

    For a different viewpoint, see the Eye of the Fish.

     
  25. Henry Filth, 26. May 2020, 12:59

    When did Wellington stop being able to do stuff? Can anyone put a date on it?

     
  26. Ross, 26. May 2020, 14:35

    If I had any say, I would have got independent engineers from Japan or San Francisco. People who know about earthquake proofing buildings but whose thinking is not “tainted” by the NZ building codes. That is, they could view the issue with an open mind and tell us all if the initial report conclusion was warranted from purely an engineering point of view.

    Secondly I would say the Council staff need to be reminded of “the value of a dollar”. It is all very well to have these “nice to have” dreams but Wellington has much more pressing basic issues to address, such as fixing the sewage and water infrastructure issues.

    I would like to see the library reopened as much as anyone, but talking about $200 million to restrengthen is nonsense and any Councillor who accepts that figure should resign. It is the same nonsense that happened over the Island Bay cycleway –$1.4 million to install but to remove it they said it would cost $4-5 million.

    Council staff seem to think ratepayers are stupid and only the staff can think of what is best for the city.

     
  27. Wendy, 26. May 2020, 15:13

    I would like to know why has the WCC refused to release the full engineers’ report BEFORE they get councillors to discuss their $200 million proposal?

     
  28. D'Esterre, 26. May 2020, 20:53

    Ross: a member of this household has gone through the engineering report. As I noted above, the strengthening which is needed – including the base isolation – can be done much more economically than the quoted price of $200 million. It won’t be cheap, but it’s nowhere near the above price. And nowhere near the cost of a new build, either.

    Our impression is that the report is intended to steer Council decision away from the option just of strengthening, and towards a rebuild and reconfiguration, designed to fit into a “new concept” Civic Square. This new concept has yet to be presented to Council: it has all the fingerprints of the former CEO and former Mayor.

    It scarcely needs to be pointed out that we the ratepayers – who must foot the bill – know absolutely nothing about this revamped Civic Square, either.

    Our best hope is to persuade Councillors to cut through the report to the basic strengthening costs, and to choose that option. Then we’ll have a chance of getting our library back.

     
  29. D'Esterre, 26. May 2020, 21:00

    Wendy: “…why has the WCC refused to release the full engineers’ report BEFORE they get councillors to discuss their $200 million proposal?”

    We’d like to know that too. If anyone needed evidence that there’s another agenda being pursued, here we have it.